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NASA probes to study weather in outer space

Venus (L) viewed as a small black dot, passes across the sun as seen from a weather observatory in Manila on June 6, 2012.

Jeff Horwich: This morning NASA delayed the launch of two new weather satellites. But it's not about the weather down here -- they'll track the weather in outer space. Why is that worth a price tag of $700 million? Here's Sally Herships.

Sally Herships: How high up do you need to travel before you start worrying about weather conditions in outer space?

Ray Williamson: Oh right here on earth -- because we are affected by it.

Ray Williamson works with the Secure World Foundation, a space research organization. He says bad weather events in outer space, can disrupt everything from air travel, to the GPS on your phone.

Williamson: They’ve very hard to predict and we don’t have much lead time if we do see one coming.

Which can be a very expensive problem. When bad space weather interferes with satellites planes can be grounded. That can cost a hundred thousand dollars a flight. And if the satellite is damaged, it can take tens of millions of dollars to repair.

Carol Paty teaches space physics at Georgia Tech. She says even though NASA’s mission is pricey, it’s well worth it.

Carol Paty: The money is being spent in the U.S., so it’s not money that’s just being lost or literally thrown out into space.

In New York, on the ground, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.


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